Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Based on the 1974 novel Jaws by Peter Benchley
Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Budget $9M Box Office $470.7M
IMDb 8/10 Rotten Tomatoes 97% Metacritic 87/100
Okay so, EVERYONE in the horror community knows about the movie Jaws. If you don’t, you’ve been living under a rock, it’s just that simple. Even the newest generations know of this movie as it still gets attention by various marketing companies as the make spoof t-shirts and magazine covers and such off of the original movie poster image. And everyone knows that classic theme song sound, that parade of single notes one after the other that can let anyone know that, just like with the Halloween theme song, nothing good is about to happen.
This film is also very near and dear to my heart. This was a favorite of my father’s and mine that we used to watch any chance we got. I know the majority (if not all) of the dialogue and because of a special trip I was lucky enough to get to take with my job years ago, I actually got to go to the back lot of Universal Studios in Hollywood and go to the dock area where they filmed some snippets of this movie. I got to get my picture taken next to the shark they “think” is the killer shark, the one they caught and bragged about near the beginning/middle of the film (it’s the one Hooper says the bite radius doesn’t match and he says it’s a Tiger shark). I also got my picture taken with the Amity sign, the one that gets defaced by the “little paint happy bastards” the Mayor wants “hung up by their Buster Browns”. (For you really young folks, that was a brand name of shoe back in the day.)
Now, everyone knows this is a killer flick. I have to be honest with you all and admit I have NOT read the novel by Peter Benchley…but I am ordering it and I am going to. The reason is simple…Spielberg had to leave a lot of the subplots out of the storyline in order to focus the film on the shark. The bulk of what we see in the film is really only about the last 120 pages or so of the book. So, we are missing quite a bit. I’ll do a comparison once I read it but, for now, moving on to the classic film itself.
The story in the film is very, very simple. Amity Island is a tourist community that gets the vast majority of their yearly income from the tourists that come to the beach every year over the summer. They depend on their summer business for their very livelihood.
Early in the season, just as the warm weather is beginning to hit, a group of local teens gather at the beach for a nighttime bonfire party. After a bit of drinking and flirting, two teens run off to get their groove on down by the water, well, in the water actually. Now, the chick is much more in control of her faculties and has no trouble stripping down to her bare ass and jumping into the ocean. The guy she’s with however, gets about halfway to naked and then drops in the sand because he’s too drunk to be of any use to anyone, especially a female. While she’s out swimming, something grabs her form below the waterline, violently jerks her from side to side and then pulls her under, all the while her screams for help being muffled by splashes of water going in her mouth and going unheard and unanswered. The next day, what’s left of her is found washed up on the shore.
At first, her death is ruled a shark attack by the medical examiner/coroner (whatever it is they have in such a small town) but, then there seems to be a meeting of the political minds of the town and that cause of death is quickly changed to boating accident.
Enter Chief Martin Brody. Brody moved to this small island from New York. He figured small town, low crime, easy life for him and his family which includes his wife and their two sons, Michael and Jordan. Ironically, Brody hates the water. In fact, he fears it…completely. I don’t think he’s even willing to wade in the water unless it’s absolutely necessary…like when he has to pull his son Michael out of the water after a shark attacks a boater near him and he falls into the water, the shark swims by him and he goes into shock. Even then, the kids Michael was with pull him to the shore and THEN Brody gets in the water only up to his shins to pull Michael in the rest of the way.
So, by now we’ve had two shark attacks. The Mayor can’t seem to get it through his thick skull that they need to close the beaches and hire someone to kill the shark until the second attack happens and only then does he agree because HIS KIDS were on the beach too. (What an ass! Only when YOUR children are at risk are you willing to close the beach??? The town should have hung HIM up by his Buster Browns…or whatever shoes he was wearing with that god awful anchor covered suit…yuck!)
Now, we’ve closed the beaches. And now, we meet Quint and Hooper. Quint is a shark hunter. He’s very rough, not just around the edges but, all the way through. He has a mouth like a sailor which fits since he later tells a story about being on the USS Indianapolis, which was a real event in American history. But, I will get to that later. Quint has offered his services to the town to hunt down and kill this shark.
Matt Hooper is an expert from the Oceanographic Institute that was asked to come out to the island to help determine what exactly they are dealing with. Hooper is a smart guy with a lot of money. This is something that really pisses off Quint. He sees Hooper as a rich kid playing fisherman. But Matt is no newbie and spends a lot of the movie proving himself to Quint, along with throwing some sarcasm and attitude at him when he gets the chance. It’s obvious Hooper knows his worth, even if Quint doesn’t.
So, these three guys load up on a little boat called The Orca to travel out into the unknown of the ocean where this giant and perfect evolutionary machine (that’s what Hooper calls it) awaits their arrival. The rest of the movie is about them hunting for and killing the shark, which they do. No everyone makes it home though. And of course, Jaws isn’t the ONLY Great White in the ocean.
Now, normally this is where I would tell you whether or not I liked the film and if I thought the actors pulled off their characters well or if it was filmed well, etc. However, this time is gonna be different since I already told you in the beginning I love this movie. Instead, I’m going to give you a lot of random information about the film you may or may not already know. But first…
Yes, I love this movie. Yes, the actors were incredible. Yes, it was filmed magnificently, especially for the time. Now, I’ll move onto what I consider to be the COOL stuff.
This was the very first horror film to be released at the box office in the summertime. It was also the first time a filmmaker had ever dared to film on a live body of water, like the ocean, and not in tanks and pools at the studio back lots. Both of these things were unheard of in 1975 when this movie was made.
Spielberg was still a very young and somewhat green director. As he began filming this movie, he and his crew ran into one obstacle after another. Nobody had ever used that kind of very expensive (and very heavy) film equipment actually IN water. So they had to figure that out. What they ended up doing was they had a guy (a genius for the times really) build a waterproof camera box for each camera so that when water filming was required the camera and its entire apparatus could be completely submerged in water without damage. He also rigged a device to keep the camera equipment steady in the strong current of the ocean water. This man’s name was Bill Butler. (And the current IS strong. If you’ve never been swimming in the ocean, I’ve been off the west coast in SoCal, it doesn’t take but getting out a few hundred feet from shore before the undercurrents really start pulling at you. And then there’s the tides. So, being actually OUT ON THE WATER in boats, that current is something wicked, even though it always looks so peaceful in pictures and from a distance.)
But, before that, they had to find a coastal area that looked small town enough to fit the idyllic Amity Island but would also be okay with an entire Hollywood film crew, cast and everything and everyone that comes with movie production being there. That’s not a small request. I mean, you’re talking probably at least 100 people coming in and taking over a town. There were 40 people involved just in building the various sharks used in the movie alone, plus taking 14 people just to operate them. That’s over 50 newcomers right there. Then you add the cast, the camera crew, sound crew, all the guys nobody ever thinks of like the boom operators, makeup team, hair stylists, costuming, the people who find housing for everyone, the clapperboard person (or persons), the list just goes on and on.
So, where could they go and peacefully disrupt an entire town’s complete way of daily living? Martha’s Vineyard. At first, the residents were okay with it as they were told the crew would only be there for 55 days. Instead, they were there 159 days. By then, the townspeople were at their limit with these Hollywood bozos. And going over on production days was just the beginning of the problems for Spielberg.
One of the biggest problems with filming on actual live bodies of water was that you have no control over, well, anything. Martha’s Vineyard is not only a residential town but, it too is a tourist place. But, it is home to a number of wealthy people who, they themselves, love the water and sail and picnic and do normal beachfront property owner activities. Now, you can’t, as a film crew, just go into some town and say, “Okay, um, we’re from Hollywood and we’re making a movie in a way that’s never been done before so, uh, if you all could just not come to the beach or get in the water in ANY WAY unless WE ask you to, that would be great, thanks.” Yeah, that’s not going to work. So, there were many, MANY times during filming that they needed a clean and clear horizon shot in the background and all of a sudden a sailboat would pop up out of one side of the shot and start slowing putzing through. And just as that boat would be almost out of shot, a yacht would come into the shot. Sometimes they’d have to wait for three or four boats at a time to get out of the shot. By then, the natural lighting is all wrong for where they are at in the story and that, of course, sets them back in filming. And that didn’t just happen ONE DAY. This was a repeated problem…or shall I say nuisance.
The original budget for the film was $3 million but, after all the delays in filming and the mechanical and design issues with the sharks, etc., it ended up costing $9 million. Now, as a young NEW director (Spielberg had only directed one other theatrical film at this point) this is NOT GOOD. The bigwigs at Universal eventually start calling Richard Zanuck (a producer) and start chewing on his ass about why the film is taking so long, what the issues are, they gotta wrap it up, they’re not gonna keep losing money…blah blah blah. Zanuck was the voice of reason and the go-between amidst Spielberg and the studio. This led to a lot of tension resting on Spielberg’s shoulders and he often stayed up until the wee hours of the morning or all night working on the script or notes or effects issues for the next day’s shooting.
Then there were problems with Bruce. That’s the mechanical shark. The shark was named Bruce by the crew after Spielberg’s lawyer (I actually find that hilarious, I know some lawyers personally). In reality, there were three full-size sharks made for the film. One was what they referred to as “a sea-sled shark” which was a full bodied shark except it had no underbelly. This is where the mechanical mechanism was that ran from the shark all the way to the ocean floor and was used to propel the shark through the water. Then there were two other sharks built. Each was full size but only one half of the shark from mouth to tail, first the whole right side of the shark, then the whole left side of the shark. All of the sharks that were fabricated were pneumatically powered, meaning they were moved by a mechanism that used a series of hoses and blasts of pressurized air and/or gas to propel movement.
But practically every day, every single day, there were calls over the little handheld radios (walkie-talkies is what we called them in the 80s, millennials if you don’t know what those are, use Google…THAT is something that I am just not willing to explain, to me it seems pretty self-explanatory but, these days I am finding that nothing is self-explanatory) that there was something wrong with the shark, that it wasn’t working, etc. Sometimes it would be that they couldn’t get the shark to swim or that it only swam in circles, sometimes its mouth wouldn’t open, other times they couldn’t get the propelling system to push it up out of the water. There were so many mechanical issues with the famous Bruce that they actually ended up cutting the shark out of a number of scenes. That’s why we see so little of the actual shark and instead, we get little tidbits and a lot of implying of the shark’s presence and the danger it imposes.
Spielberg and his team also came up with a brilliant filming technique for the film to really pull the viewers into the depths of the ocean with the characters. They filmed with the camera at the waterline for a number of shots, especially shots where danger is supposed to be felt, instead of filming at eye level or from above. This put the viewer right smack dab in the heart of the danger zone with the shark…that they couldn’t see. And we always fear more what we cannot see versus what we can. Then, Spielberg asked that during certain “attack” shots there be no red in the background or in the shot itself. This made the blood of the victims the only red the viewers would see, thus making it so much more impactful.
The gal that played Chrissie (the girl that dies in the very beginning), Susan Backlinie, was actually hooked up to a pulley system that violently yanked her from side to side and up and down to simulate the shark swimming around with her in its mouth and pulling her under. It was operated by two men, one on each end. She has said in interviews that is was very hard work and it WAS painful to go through that process. Also, Spielberg was so concerned about the last final tug of her going under being just right that he himself yanked her under for the last pull into the water down to her demise on film. At the time this film was made, it was very difficult to find a pretty girl who was young that was athletic with stunt experience and willing to do a full nudity scene on camera.
Now for something I find incredibly interesting. Richard Dreyfuss was completely miserable during the making of this film. He had no faith in it whatsoever and he just knew his career would be over before it even really got started. He had only done a handful of films and though some of the titles were big titles, he either went uncredited, didn’t have a big part as a credited actor, didn’t do well or the film didn’t do as well as expected. There were a number of times during filming he called his agent very upset and angry about taking this role. (He had just done The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitzand was once again convinced everyone would hate it. After seeing the screener, he called Spielberg and asked for the part of Hooper, which he initially turned down.) Richard was certain the whole film was going to be a total bust, that the critics were going to hate the film and him and that he was surely never going to work in Hollywood again. He felt his character was never really developed and that because of that, he was not able to give a full performance worthy of his true talent. He has been quoted as saying, ”We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark.”
There were problems with the cast at times as well. They didn’t always get along. Especially as time kept dragging on and tensions kept running higher and higher. Shaw had a drinking problem and an attitude with Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss had an attitude about his confidence in the film and his character…and career. A lot of the cast and crew got sea sickness during filming. I mean, how pleasant does that sound?
Now for the USS Indianapolis speech. This is a key moment in the movie. And one of the most famous. Quint and Hooper are getting drunk and bonding over sharing shark bite/injury scars. As they are going back and forth talking about what seem like some pretty close calls, Chiefy looks at his stomach to see his one and only scar…from his appendectomy. That doesn’t quite qualify for the very friendly pissing contest they got going on here. Then, as the two shark-boys are about to toast to their legs (watch the movie), Brody asks Quint about a scar on his arm. Quint says it’s a tattoo he got removed. (I don’t know about how it is now but, old school military, especially Navy, got tattoos, usually representing a wife, a woman, a mother or the ship they were assigned to. After a couple smartass jokes from Hooper, Quint reveals it’s a tat from the Indianapolis. Hooper immediately knows what that means, Brody does not. So, Quint tells a brief summary of the tragedy at sea.
The truth: In July of 1945, the USS Indianapolis was a Portland-class heavy cruiser that our Navy sent to deliver bomb parts that would later be assembled into the first nuclear weapon used in war to the Island of Tinian to our Air Force Base there. That nuclear bomb was the bomb used in the attack on Hiroshima the following month in August. On July 30, on their way to their next assignment they were torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The entire ship sank in about twelve minutes. With it into the water went almost 1200 men…our soldiers. About 300 men died with the sinking of the cruiser. The other approximately 900 men, they were left floating in the water with lifejackets, very few lifeboats, no food or water and left with the dangers of exposure to the elements, saltwater poisoning and shark attacks. After an awful and intense nearly five days helplessly at sea only 316 were rescued.
On August 19, 2017 an independent investor hired a search team to locate the wreckage of the Indianapolis. It was found at the explosion location, at a depth of about 18,000 feet.
On December 20, 2018 the entire crew of the USS Indianapolis was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service and sacrifice to their country.
Quint’s version: Quint tells pretty much the same story except it is, of course, dramatized emotionally for the movie and embellished for impact. Quint says they weren’t even listed overdue for a week. That’s not true. They were sighted four days after the cruiser sank. Quint also never mentions any lifeboats. However, there was a huge screw up, or I’m going to say series of screw ups, by the US Navy that, had they not occurred, could have very well saved hundreds of lives.
Now, because Quint is super drunk in this scene when he gives this speech, Robert Shaw, who plays Quint, thought that the only way he could really do this scene right would be if he too were drunk. It didn’t go as he planned. Shaw fouled up the scene so many times that they eventually called it quits and waited for the next day. On that next day of filming, Shaw showed up stone cold sober and nailed the speech the first time.
A few extra tidbits about the speech…
Roy Scheider was the one who came up with the line about sharks having eyes like a doll’s eyes.
The speech went from an original three quarters of a page recollection to a four-page monologue into the concise intense story we see on screen.
Multiple cast members, the script writers and Spielberg contributed to the final speech we view in the film.
Okay, so who IS Peter Benchley anyways right? Well, if you watch the movie, on the first day the beaches are open to tourists there’s a reporter doing a story about what’s been going on in Amity as of late. He’s got dark hair and glasses and he’s wearing a suit on the beach with a microphone in his hand. THAT is Peter Benchley. He re-wrote the screenplay for the movie three or four times before he handed it over and told the studio and filmmakers that he’d done all he could with it and the rest was basically on them.
Spielberg wasn’t the first director offered this film. The first director basically quit and Spielberg had to ask for the film because he happened to see it on the desk of someone at the studio, I believe it was Zannuck’s desk but, I can’t be 100% on that one.
Spielberg was in constant fear throughout the making of this movie that he was going to not only be fired but, probably cast out of Hollywood forever as the worst director of all time.
The end scene where the shark explodes was a one-chance/one-take shot. They filled the shark with real raw fish, calamari, chum, etc. to simulate the actual bloody guts of the shark being blown up.
Spielberg did not go to the set on the last day of filming. He flew back to Hollywood early. He was so afraid the cast and crew were going to do something to him, like footballs players dumping Gatorade on the coach but worse, that he cut out in order to avoid his impending doom. To this day he says he still does not go to the set on the last day of filming out of tradition and possibly, superstition.
In the scene where Mrs. Kittner slaps Chief Brody, Roy Scheider was slapped over 25 times before they got it done the way Spielberg wanted it. Roy has said it was very difficult to brace yourself for a smack in the face you knew was coming without looking like you knew it was coming.
The theme song, as I said in the beginning, a classic parade of single notes back and forth is deemed by Spielberg to be responsible for half of the film’s success. He feels that had it not been for that specific iconic tune, the movie wouldn’t have been near as successful.
Several big name actors such as Robert Duvall and Jon Voight were considered for main parts in the movie. But they were either not receptive to what parts were being offered or Spielberg thought they might be too big for the movie, period, and steal the show from the shark, such as actors like Charlton Heston, who wanted to play Quint.
When Hooper is underwater in the anti-shark cage, there are two interesting things they did to make this scene so believable.
Finally, probably the most famous line in this film is, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” It is said by Chief Brody when he’s throwing out chum and the shark jumps out of the water at him and scares the crap out of him. Originally, this line was said immediately after the shark appears. When the screening was first shown and they were gauging what was working in the film and what wasn’t, the screams of the audience when the shark appeared COMPLETELY drowned out Brody’s famous line. Spielberg felt this line was crucial, instrumental to the scene and the film as it added a certain amount of levity to such an ominous situation. So, after the screening, they changed it to what we now see, where Brody stiffens up, walks straight backwards into the galley and THEN tells Quint “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” They also raised the volume level of that particular line in the film versus the rest of the dialogue. By doing that, the audience had settled enough that the line could be heard and have its comedic impact.
Also, the scene where Hooper is looking at Ben Gardner’s boat underwater and the head pops out at him, that was added after the filming at Martha’s Vineyard. Spielberg just wanted one more scare for the viewers. It was filmed in a pool at someone’s house. They added powdered milk to the water to try to match the murky waters of those at Martha’s Vineyard and shot it in Hollywood in a personal pool, not even on the backlot at the studios. Spielberg even used $3000 of his own money to do so. (What a guy!!!!)
And one last thing…Jaws was the first film to hit over $100M at the Box Office (they call it theatrical rentals) ever. It surpassed The Godfather which only grossed $86M. The Jaws record was beaten by Star Wars just two years later but Jaws was the first to hit the $100M. (Atta boy Spielberg, and you thought you were dead in the water, tsk tsk tsk.) Within the first two weeks of release all production costs had been covered and the rest was all profit from that point forward. They also did a much larger nationwide theatrical release than what was normal for the time. They released on June 20, 1975 in North America in 464 theaters, which was just unheard of and by the middle of August, the film was in over 900 theaters. This totally went against everything the studios thought would bring in viewers. But, they were wrong. People were lined up to see this movie all summer long, around the blocks of theaters all over the country, not to mention when it went international. It has been revered as such a classic that is has been re-released in theaters in 1976, 1979 (this is also when it first aired on television getting the second highest viewing audience in history at the time, only being beaten out by Gone with the Wind), and then again in 2015 on two different dates.
So, there you have it. That’s the bulk of the information I have on the film Jaws…in a nutshell. I can’t imagine someone NOT liking this movie and I pray that Hollywood doesn’t do a remake/reboot/redux F&!@ UP on what might very well be ONE of the most perfect horror films ever. We are talking about a cataclysm of blunders and misfortunes, mind changes and matters of naïve genius, perfection and patience, egotism and humbleness, all smashing together in a catastrophic way to bring us something that could never be recreated again. This was magic on screen in a way that they just don’t do anymore. These days everyone relies so much on CGI that nothing you see on screen seems to have been done by hand. REAL special effects used to be an actual art form. It’s such a shame that with all this technology we’ve gotten to the point where we feel the need to do EVERYTHING electronically, digitally. And don’t get me wrong, I understand that CGI is also an art form. I truly do. But there’s something about being able to build something with your hands and make it look as realistic as possible versus everything being done on a computer program. Maybe I’m just old school. I don’t know.
And these guys didn’t have that CGI option. And while the newer generations look at the film quality, see vintage or the date of 1975 and immediately think NO WAY and move on, they have no idea what kind of skill, talent and manpower it took to make a movie like this. It took six months just to build the three sharks, built by 40 men, by hand. Not some computer. Filming took like 159 days instead of the scheduled 55. They had every problem you could imagine and all the ones you can’t. They were breaking new ground in this film. I feel like this gets lost somewhere along the line. I mean, really, even if we do let computers do everything, who’s gonna fix the computers when they break? Another computer? And when that one breaks? You need humans in there somewhere people. You can’t replace all human action, activity and skill with a computer. No matter how hard you try. Technology is supposed to aid us, not replace us.
So, for some good old fashioned summer horror, this is the go to flick. Not a whole lot of blood but, there is some. Not a lot of gore, except for that whole Quint dying thing. Not a lot of foul language. Only a small spot of brief nudity. But totally loaded on suspense and thrill. A personal favorite and a true classic. Jaws wasn’t just a MOVEMENT in the horror film industry. It was a REVOLUTION. A movement suggests something that goes for a distance and then stops and sort of dies off. A revolution seems to cycle back around again and again. And Jaws…will never die.
Behind the Scenes
Directed by Wes Craven
Screenplay by Harlan Ellison, Alan Brennert
Starring: Bruce Willis
So, I just watched a 1980s episode of The Twilight Zone called Shatterday. (My first thought was “Wow, they gave William Shatner his own themed episode??? Seriously???” But, alas, this was not the case.)
This was an intense episode and it’s hard to explain so, you’ll have to be patient and just, muscle through a bit.
Bruce Willis plays a man named Peter Novins. We first meet Peter while he is sitting at a bar having a drink, waiting for his girlfriend to arrive. As she is late, he decides to call his girlfriend’s office and see if she’s left yet or something like that. Here’s one of my favorite little tidbits. He dials his phone number KL56189 (that’s Klondike 56189 for you younger folks. So the number would translate into 555-6189. ‘K’ and ‘L’ are on the number 5 on the phone key pad. So WA48484 is said as Wabash 48484 and is dialed as 924-8484. Okay? I think this is fun because we don’t use the letter/number system anymore and this particular episode was made in 1985 and they are still referring to a phone number that way. By then, the majority of phone numbers were referred to as numbers only, no letters. Just a little history lesson there for ya. Moving on.)
So, Peter dials KL56189. But it’s not his girl’s office…it’s his home. Now, normally when you call your own home and you’re the only one that lives there, a person doesn’t answer. Peter is not so lucky. On the other end of the line…is Peter.
Now, take a minute to wrap your head around this. You call home and YOU answer. And you start having a conversation with yourself to confirm your own identity. How whacked out is THAT??? Needless to say, Peter in the bar (we’ll call him Novins) gets completely freaked out by his conversation with Peter at home (we’ll keep calling him Peter) and leaves the bar, telling the bartender that if his girlfriend shows up to tell her he couldn’t stay. (Um, yeah…dude? That’s soooo not gonna fly with her, okay? Just sayin’.)
What this conversation, and following ones from a phone booth, entailed between the two Peters was very revealing and antagonistic. Peter says they can’t both exist. That two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. Peter tells Novins that he knows his life is crap and he won’t even make any effort to change it. Peter starts antagonizing Novins about all his misdeeds, bad choices, his lack of character, his general lack of lust for life. He bashes him telling him his life sucks and he’s let it get out of control. Peter says that those days are over.
Novins gets agitated very quickly and maintains that eventually Peter will have to leave the apartment eventually and when he does, Novins will slip in, thus taking over the apartment and his life again. This whole thing is seemingly a battle over occupancy of the apartment. But through more antagonistic conversations, we learn that it runs much deeper than that.
So, by now, Novins is locked out of his own apartment by Peter (himself) and has checked into a hotel. He’s also emptied his bank account so Peter has no access to his money thinking that will put a strain on him. Then, more phone calls.
Novins calls Peter and tries to enforce his monetary upper hand. But Peter IS Novins. So, he knows about the $200 in the jewelry box. That blows Novins’ plan right out of the water. Then, as if that punch in the gut wasn’t bad enough, Peter tells him that his mother called that day. He says she knows he lied about why he left his visit with her early. She knows he left and checked into a hotel for his last day. Peter says that she said she forgives him and just wants him to spend her life with him.
Now, Novins is losing it because he gets all buggy when he’s around his Mom and he already feels guilty but, he pushes that WAY down to the pit of his gut so he can ignore it. And this ass clown is straight guilting him to the nth degree here. But, Peter tells Novins not to worry, he’s already arranged to make amends. He invited Mom to come live with him. Novins REALLY flips out on that one!!! He doesn’t want his mother in his apartment. He’s a guy, with a life. Well, too flippin’ bad because Peter has made it so. And there is nothing Novins can do about it. Not from the outside. Peter is the one in the house. He’s the one able to do the work at his job. He’s the one answering the phone and talking to people. Peter is in control. Novins…merely a passenger now.
They briefly discuss how the two parts of the whole somehow got separated…talking about auras and spirits floating off during sleep. None of it is given much thought or much weight. Peter just keeps reinforcing that he’s in charge.
I have to take a brief moment to describe the two Peters. The house Peter is very well kempt, clean cut, well dressed and well spoken. He’s calm and collected. He’s got morals and a conscience. The bar Peter (Novins) is stressed and disheveled. He’s sweaty and pale. If you could touch him, I would bet he would be clammy. His eyes are heavy and bloodshot. And as the phone calls keep coming his appearance gets worse and worse while Peter remains forever GQ.
Stuck out in the rain Novins calls Peter and tries to come to some sort of conclusion, some sort of resolution to where they can come together again. Peter suggests the one that DESERVES to be Peter Novins should take over the life. This leads to a conversation about integrity and morality. It’s clear Novins feels like the victim, like Peter is doing this TO him but, Peter assures him that Novins has done this to himself.
Now, this has been going on for five days. Novins is slowly getting more and more sickly looking as he stays holed up in his hotel room. Meanwhile, Peter is taking over Novins life…and continuing to make some changes.
Peter calls Novins and taunts him with fake concern for his health. He calls Novins out on how he got some gal Patty to leave her husband, taking her son with her, and set her up in an apartment to have a relationship with her…until he got sick of her and just blew her off. He says he took the liberty of calling her and apologizing to her for the way Novins treated her. Peter also informs him he has intervened on his relationship with his girlfriend, apologizing for being a jerk and making plans to move forward with a whole new outlook with her. And that she was receptive to that. This just cuts into the core of Novins and you can see his soul start to just with away. I mean, the man looks like he’s just dying, inside and out.
Then we get to SHATTERDAY. (They have named various days of the week that this whole thing has taken place like Day 1: Someday, Day 2: Duesday, Day 5: Freeday and Day 6: Shatterday. Day 2 was when he went to the bank and took out all his money.)
So, here we are…Shatterday. Novins is sprawled out on the bed in the hotel room, looking like death slightly warmed over. And all of a sudden, a knock at his door, and then it opens.
In walks Peter. Novins sounds like he’s breathing and talking through radio static. And for the first time, they have an actual conversation about what is REALLY going on. Novins brings up the archetypes from Jung, the shadow or the persona, the ego or anima, which one is Peter? Peter admits that when he first broke loose he was the shadow but now, now he’s the self.
These two men, these two parts of the same man, battling it out with each other over who would possess the life of the body and mind. Which one will have control? And in Novins current condition, it seems Peter has won the battle. He tells Novins he’s becoming a memory. Novins finds that slightly hurtful although he’s so far gone he’s not feeling much of anything. Peter says he’s glad they broke apart, that Novins was basically a sickness and now he’s rid of him. He also says he’s not going to say he’s sorry for that nor for being a better man without him. (Seems harsh doesn’t it?)
Peter tells Novins he is there to see if he wanted anything, if there was anything he would do different. Novins says no, nothing special really, asks him to give Patty some money to help take care of her boy. But, Novins just seems empty and lost by this point. Peter says that means he’s accepting his fate and that’s good. Novins doesn’t look like it’s a good thing, believe me.
Peter goes to leave and Novins reaches out his hand. Peter takes it in his and they share a final cordial handshake as Novins starts to fade away. Peter grabs his coat and heads to the door. We see a transparent Novins sitting at the window of the hotel room. He fades to nothing as Peter leaves, he stares out the window. When Peter turns back to look at Novins, he’s gone.
And Peter Novins leaves the hotel, a better man than he was before.
So, what if this could happen? What if the worst part of you was confronted and overrun by the best part of you? Locked out of your life, stripped of your identity, and hidden away until you simply just faded away. What if the reverse happened? People struggle within themselves all the time. This episode just took that inner turmoil and put it as a side by side battle with oneself. That’s exactly what you are doing when you are wrestling with your conscience. It’s YOU arguing with YOU. It’s just different parts of YOU. The easiest way to explain it is the Angel on your right shoulder and the Devil on your left shoulder, each whispering in your ears telling you what you should be doing. That’s your conscience (hopefully you have one) on the right fighting with your desire on the left. Now, I am putting that in the most GENERAL and simplest terms to get the idea of this man versus himself struggle across.
There is an entire psychological theory on this whole thing by Sigmund Freud involving the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego. Basically, the Id would be the drive of desire. The Super-Ego is morality and critical thinking and the Ego acts as the mediator between the two.
But, imagine the conversation you would have with yourself if you could confront YOU face to face instead of just in your head. Even if you could just have that talk over the phone, it would be so much more sobering and impactful if you heard it in your own voice like that. Because even when we DO talk to ourselves, it’s never the way we talk to others. And the way we would go off on someone else is usually markedly different than how we would come down on ourselves. We tend to use a different language with ourselves in anger, we may be harder on ourselves but our inner dialogue tends to be more intimate and abrasive and outright brutal. We tend to insult ourselves in more intimate ways, more personal and exact attacks, with specific examples of failures and shortcomings. With ourselves, we know how to go for the jugular with the first shot every time. Whereas with others, we tend to go for general faults and insult general flaws since we may not know their deepest and darkest secrets. It’s always easier to tear a person apart emotionally when you know more about them personally. So, if you are battling yourself, you’re your own worst enemy. Because who knows more about you than you?
The end of this show was a real WOW moment for me. It was actually a moment that made my heart sink a little bit. It was like whoa, this was a guy battling his own demons, we just got to see it play out as if it were two people instead of one. Then, you kind of feel good for the guy because he won his war over his demons and is a better man living a better life, he’s made amends for the wrong he’s done, he’s focusing on his mother and his girlfriend, making plans for his future. But, at the same time, the idea of watching a part of yourself dying off, fading away, you encouraging it, willing it and then being happy about it…just seems a little unnerving to me. It would be unsettling to me to literally visually watch a part of myself die off. Especially knowing that I’m killing that part off with my own actions and decisions, my own will and power. Seems so morbid to me in a way.
But, that’s what you’re doing when you make changes to your personality, right? I mean, if you’re a total schmuck and you decide you want to be Mr. Nice Guy and not El Schmucko anymore, you basically kill off the schmuck, don’t you? I mean, yes, technically it’s a series of retraining the brain and new behaviors replacing old ones and forming new patterns and thoughts processes but, in order to do that you have to rid yourself of the bad thought processes, behaviors, patterns, etc. It’s just replacing the bad with the good, the old with the new. So, you’re killing off the old and letting the new (or the rest) continue to live. Still, to see it with your own eyes would be quite chilling, in my opinion.
So, definitely an episode worth seeing.
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Guinevere Turner
Producers: Cindi Rice, John Frank Rosenblum, Dana Guerin
Matt Smith as Charles Manson
Hannah Murray as Leslie Van Houten
Sosie Bacon as Patricia Krenwinkel
Marianne Rendón as Susan Atkins
Suki Waterhouse as Mary Brunner
Chace Crawford as Tex Watson
Budget N/A Box Office $25, 562
IMDb 5.6/10 Rotten Tomatoes 50% Metacritic 55/100
This is one of the most interesting films on the Manson women to date. While the screenplay is written by Guinevere Turner, the film itself is based on two different books:
The Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion by Ed Sanders
The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten by Karlene Faith
The most interesting about this film is that it focuses more on how Charlie treated the WOMEN in his cult rather than Charlie himself. All the hype around the Tate-LaBianca murders, along with other murders such as that of Gary Hinman, generally focus on Manson himself, as if he was the only person in the cult. This film certainly gives you a closer look from the point of view of “the Manson Women”.
While in all their interviews and statements during their arrests and trials they maintained “Charlie is love”, the truth is the man was a creepy little manipulative monster that preyed on the vulnerabilities of young women. We see in this film how Charlie systematically strips these young girls of their identities. He exploits any weakness he finds but, in a way that makes them feel loved and cherished and special. He digs into their psyche and plays with their minds and emotions.
These girls openly go to Charlie. They willingly allow him to explore their minds, their bodies, their pasts. They answer every question, believing that in their honesty with him, THEY will be considered his “special girl”. We see how willing they are to take his abuse and humiliation, how they let him pass them around like property to other men.
People often ask how it was that this tiny little nothing was able to get ahold of the minds of so many young people. This film does an excellent job of showing how he got control of the group, collectively and individually. We get a taste of how his ego played a big part in how he treated these girls, whichever one fed his ego the most seemed to get the best treatment, as it usually goes with cults. However, as it also usually goes with cults, those that defy the leader, no matter how much they are favored, will be disciplined and more often than not in front of the rest of the group. There are a number of things that Charlie did to these women, who were just kids at the time really, that really messed with their heads. And while that doesn’t excuse what they did, it does help explain how they got to that point.
I know people don’t like hearing that “the Manson Women” are/were victims. It just doesn’t seem to sit well in the pit of the stomachs of the public or the justice system. But you have to remember, these girls didn’t start out as murderers. Some of the girls from the cult came from affluent, good homes, went to good schools, etc. Some were runaways looking for safety and direction. Some were just looking for fun, drugs and free love. There were people that hung around the cult for days, weeks, even months and then just took off. They weren’t the true followers. They were just passersby if you will.
The writer of this film, Guinevere Turner, has a unique perspective as she herself was raised in what mainstream society refers to as “a cult”. To her, it was just her way of life. She didn’t know any different. She did, however, get to see firsthand how the hierarchy of a cult works, the systematic degradation of human beings and brainwashing of minds, the attempts to rebuild people in the image of one person’s mind of what is ideal and perfect and how the attempts of perfection and Utopia can turn into menace and mayhem. You can read her essay on her experience published on The New Yorker website here:
I highly recommend this film to anyone who would like a completely different view of the whole Manson Family story. One that is not skewed by the press, the prosecutors or Manson himself.
James R. Webb, Wesley Strick
Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis
Budget $35M Box Office $182.3M
IMDb 7.3/10 Rotten Tomatoes 75% Metacritic 73/100
This was a movie my Dad introduced me to. We both always had a huge respect for Robert De Niro. I just happened to catch this flick on TV today while I was flipping through channels, so I decided to sit back, watch and reminisce about times spent long ago with my father. I think this may have been the film that convinced me I didn’t want to be a defense attorney.
This is a true psychological thriller. It’s a story about a guy named Max Cady (De Niro) who was sent to prison for 14 years after pleading to battery. He was charged with rape and other included offenses which made it a capital case. By taking the plea, Max had a chance at seeing life outside prison walls someday. He brutalized his victim so badly that she barely survived. His defense lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) not only “knew” his client was guilty as hell but, Max had even confessed to Sam that he had gotten away with two other attacks. So, Sam buried some evidence in the case. It was the prior sexual history of the victim. (Remember, this was in the 90s, when rape victims did not have the kind of protection and shield laws we have for them now.) “Apparently”, (and I say that with so much sarcasm it gushes), this report showed that the victim was “promiscuous” and had had “at least three lovers in one month”. (Insert HUGE eye roll here and TOTALLY moving on because NONE of that has any bearing at all on whether or not someone is attacked.) Sam never turned this over to the prosecution and no one else was aware of it either, especially his client. That report could have gotten Max a lighter sentence OR even acquitted completely. Instead, Cady took the plea deal, was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years.
Now, once incarcerated, people do a lot of things to pass their time. Some form criminal enterprises inside. Some inmates sit in their cells as much as possible, trying to cope with depression or worse. Some just want to do their bid and get it over with, get out and move on. Some exercise. Some read. Others work jobs or get educations, degrees even. Some find religion. And yet some spend the vast majority of their time in the prison law library studying, reading up on anything and everything to do with their case. This last one is an interesting coping tactic because once they do this they are privy to certain, if not all, information pertaining to their case from both the state prosecutors and his defense attorneys (not to mention any independent experts and witnesses that may have been consulted during the course of the investigation and/or trial).
Out of all those options, Max Cady chose to live in a world of his own, in his 8ft by 9ft cell, expressing himself, his frustration, his vengeance and his religion through tattoos all over his body, by working out physically and yes, living in the law library.
For Sam, during these 14 years, he and his family move on with their lives and are doing fairly well. It’s obvious there has been some marital discourse but hey, what serious relationship doesn’t have issues now and then? Sam’s daughter, Dani (Danielle) is now 15 and oh so typical for that age and his wife, Leigh, is in advertising it seems. But, it’s when Max Cady gets released after serving his sentence that things really start to heat up and get troubling.
While Sam was out living his life, Max, on the other hand, feels like he was unfairly convicted as he strongly contends that the prior sexually history of his victim would have exonerated him. He has had fourteen years to think about how Sam buried that report. Fourteen years to think about how his life was snatched away from him. Of how he was caged and treated like an animal. How he lost his wife. His daughter. His respect. His dignity. How he had no other choice but to think and work out and desecrate his body with prison tattoos, waiting for the day his release would come and he could go pay a visit to his good old buddy Sam Bowden, and say “Hello.”
So, here we are. Fourteen years later and Max is out. And wouldn’t you know it, he just so happens to find cozy happiness in starting his life anew right in the same town where Sam and his family live. And just as luck would have it, why, Sam and Max start bumping into one another. Now, we all know that Max is doing this on purpose but see, the thing is, he learned a lot in prison. Fourteen years of studying is a lot longer than most lawyers do. Granted, Max had to first learn how to read, but he had nothing but time…and time…and time. And unlike out here in the real world, he didn’t have to necessarily go through all the hoops to get to the law library like a regular lawyer did. I mean, once Max learned how to read to that level the man could have spent all his time studying the law…now how many years do you think that was? Ten? Twelve? Law school is three. See where I’m going with this. Max has had the lengthy opportunity to learn and overlearn every loophole and misgiving in the entire system AND how to LEGALLY exploit it.
It’s like when a stalker knows that the police can’t doing anything to them for following their victim in a public place even with a restraining order in place as long as they stay the allotted number of feet away. Well see, while that seems obvious to everyone now reading it, most people given a restraining order tend to just stay away. A stalker will go out with a tape measure and measure that shit so they can still see their victim and torment them BUT not get arrested. And they won’t just do it at one location, they will do it at many locations. Plus, it gives them an even greater feeling of control and power over their target. Just one example for you.
Okay, so Max is out and harassing Sam and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. What’s worse is that Max, because of all his legal knowledge, fancies himself a legal professional on par with Sam but Sam…Sam keeps talking to him and treating him like a criminal, like a convict. Max gets all holy on Sam, quoting scripture from the Bible repeatedly throughout the movie, lecturing him about the meaning of commitment and what his fourteen years would be worth.
Then it gets really creepy. Dude starts going to Sam’s house. He goes after the family dog, the wife and even the daughter at her school. Max is so skilled he is completely wreaking havoc on Sam, his nerves, his job and his family. I mean, it gets to the point where Sam feels he needs to take his family and flee on their little houseboat until the police can (or will) help them.
Good plan. It’s out in the middle of a lake, no one will know where they are…good plan.
Except Cady is riding with them all the way to the dock tied to the undercarriage of their SUV.
Once they (and Cady) get on the boat and get settled a storm hits. This is when Cady makes his move. Now, he’s gonna have his REAL day in court. HIS way. He handcuffs Sam to a pole in the galley and has Leigh and Dani act as the jury (it’s not like they really have a purpose there, he is just acting out some sick psycho fantasy here, later he looks at the ceiling and talks to the judge that isn’t there during the hearing). He proceeds to ask Sam about the buried report and eventually Sam admits it, citing Max as a predator and a menace and that he deserved to go to prison. Unfortunately, my good friends, this is not how our system actually works. A lawyer shall zealously defend his client to the very best of his ability within the bounds of the law. That’s the defendant’s right and something very similar to that statement is in the oath a lawyer repeats when they are sworn into the ABA. Frankly, although it may make stomachs turn, Sam didn’t do that. And now he and his family are going to die because of it. Or are they???
Not quite. Well, not in the literal sense anyways. However, what does happen that night on the water forever changes all of them. Individually and as a family. It probably changes Sam as a lawyer too. Going through something like that, nothing is ever the same.
So, this is a remake of the original 1962 film which I have to admit I have not seen. So I can’t compare or comment on the original at all.
However, this version is fantastic. De Niro really went “all in” on this part as he went to a dentist and paid $5,000 to have them damage and mess up his teeth (his real, own teeth!) just so he could better look the part of Cady and then after filming, he went back to the dentist and paid $20,000 to get the work all reversed and his teeth fixed. OUCH! Talk about commitment!!!!
Anyways, at the beginning of this I said this was probably the movie that made me decide not to be a defense lawyer. That could very well be true. I mean, if you are a prosecutor, inevitably you’re going to put an innocent person away for something they didn’t do. And if you are a defense attorney, you are going to get people off for things they definitely did, bad things. Now, it’s gonna be really easy to be a prosecutor and be righteous and moral but, to be a defense attorney, especially a criminal defense attorney, and still strut around preaching morality and righteousness…that’s tough. More often than not, what you hear the most from criminal defense attorneys is, eh um, “Everyone is entitled to a defense.” That’s a very valid, reasonable and true justification under the law and the constitution. However, what they tend to neglect to mention is that there is far more money in private defense practice than in civil service and while the clients are sketchier, the perks are better. Doesn’t make them bad people and without defense lawyers, our system wouldn’t move. But public defenders don’t necessarily seem to feel the same way about defense law when it becomes their turn to take a week out of their private civil law practice to do so, giving up their private rates for civil rates. Big pay cut.
And yet, either way, if your client happens to feel you didn’t do your job, they could blame you for their sentence (not the fact they committed a crime, it happens more than you think) and then all of a sudden it’s your fault they went to prison and now they want you dead or worse. (Yes, there’s worse than just getting shot dead, think people, think.)
So, there went law school. And my Dad had gone to law school after college and the Army (and Vietnam) so at one point I thought “Yes! This is totally in the blood!” but, then he told me he realized it wasn’t for him either and decided to become a cop instead. And again I was like “Yes, I see this too is in the blood.” Obviously, though we are a family of debaters, becoming lawyers wasn’t our thing.
Now, all through the film Max perceives himself to be the victim here. The victim of the system. The victim of the devious defense lawyer with a conscience. What Max fails to realize is that had he not broken the law to begin with, had he not raped and beaten that young lady, he wouldn’t have been arrested. Not having been arrested, he wouldn’t have been charged and not having been charged he wouldn’t have been arraigned. Therefore, he wouldn’t have needed a lawyer because he wouldn’t have been going to trial. But he did do all that and he got Sam and poor old Sam had a conscience because, well, hell, he still believes in right and wrong and not just the face on the bill you hand him or the number of zeroes on the check.
As the viewers, we see the victim (or victims) to be Sam and his family. But Sam also did something wrong. And while we want to morally support him (and believe me, rightfully so), legally and constitutionally, which is a big part of what this country is built on, he violated his client’s rights. That’s something that demands sanction from the ABA, if not disbarment. Just because you know your client is guilty doesn’t mean you can tank his case. And you don’t get to choose how much effort you put into a defense on how well you like your client or how much you believe their version of the events or how horrible of a criminal record they have. One would think a budding lawyer would have thought of that at some point between first year law school and their swearing in.
So, who IS the victim? (Other than the poor young woman who got brutally assaulted which, that assault we don’t see but, a similar one we get a glimpse of later in the film.)
Well, in the legal and clinical arena, when looking to assign responsibility, accountability and outright blame for an event there is a very simple way they look at it. Some refer to it as “the But/For Test” but it basically boils down to this:
In every event, there is a cause and a reaction. (One of Newton’s Laws, yes?) So, with any event, what they will do is they will look back at the initiating action and see if the final result would still happen, had that initial action NOT presented itself. If the answer is no, then they move to the next. If the answer is yes, then well, you can start with the blame-game and move on from there.
So, in the instance of this movie, BUT FOR Max committing his crime, Sam would never have had to defend him. Thus, he wouldn’t have felt the need to bury that evidence. However, you could then turn right around and say, BUT FOR Sam hiding that evidence, Max wouldn’t be on his ass. However, that doesn’t quite fit the full criteria because Max did something causing Sam to get involved first, not the other way around. So the burden of his misery still rests on Max’s own shoulders, albeit two very badly prison tattooed shoulders. (Prison ink rarely looks good man, very rarely. You know they melt checkers and stuff for that ink, right? Yeah, they get creative.)
Still, the idea that a con fresh out of the federal pen is so pissed at you, and has been for fourteen years, that he comes after you with such vengeance and such fury that nothing short of an act of intervention from God himself will stop him? That’s pretty wild. I mean, what that must be like to sit in prison for that many years and burn and fume and rage over the same person day in and day out, day in, day out, day in, day out. Forever reminding yourself that THEY are why you are there. Man, talk about torturing yourself mentally. Or, I guess if you are a psychopath, more like preparing yourself mentally. I withdraw my previous comment, taking into consideration the character I am talking about.
I am curious about the original although, I don’t see that it could be near as impactful as this version, especially being from the 60s. Things were just so different in the industry at that time and filmmakers were really only just beginning to branch out. I’ll have to check it out and see. This one though, definitely a good one.